Get An iLife

iDVD 3 is a shining example of elegant simplicity -- it lets you build complex, professional-looking DVD projects with ease. It has limitations, to be sure (for example, it doesn't support external DVD burners -- it works only with Apple's internal SuperDrive), but most casual DVD creators probably won't notice them. This massive (1.3GB) upgrade is what you're really paying for when you buy iLife.

Themes

iDVD 3 includes two dozen new customizable DVD menu themes to choose from (and you won't lose your version 2 themes either). These new themes, such as Theater and Projector, are simply dazzling. Many of them have a drop zone -- areas where you can customize Apple's prebuilt backgrounds by dropping in your own photos or video clips.

In the Projector theme, for instance, the drop zone corresponds to the movie screen lit by a film projector. When you drop video into this zone, iDVD plays the video back as if it were projected film, adding some scratches and dirt with an old-film–look filter. The only drawback to the drop zone is that the video or photo album plays back with a constant framing -- although you can click and drag the video to the desired placement, the adjustment is applied throughout. As a result, some photos in an album may appear awkwardly framed. In addition, tall photos are sometimes incorrectly displayed (squished vertically, for example).

Integration

The way you work with iDVD is basically the same in version 3. But new features can add a layer of sophistication to finished projects.

iTunes iDVD 3 accesses the other iLife apps through the iMedia Browser, which is located at the top of the Customize drawer. Pressing the Audio button opens the iTunes Library, letting you easily pull audio in for background music (you can still import non-iTunes audio the traditional way, via the Customize: Settings pane). Any sound element imported from iTunes starts playing from the beginning by default (and menus can only contain a 30-second music loop).

iPhoto The Photos button links iDVD to iPhoto 2. Here you have access not only to individual photos but also to iPhoto albums. These photo albums play like preview QuickTime movies when they are applied to some of iDVD 3's new menu pages with special Photo or Movie drop zones. And if you drop an iPhoto album onto a menu page (outside of a drop zone), iDVD will create a slide show for you.

iMovie The Movies button connects to the Movies folder in the user's Home directory, as this is the default location for iMovie media. This feature is useful only for video projects that originated in iMovie. Final Cut Pro and Express users will need to drag and drop movies into iDVD 3.

Chapter Markers

Perhaps the most impressive new feature in iDVD 3 is chapter-marker support. With chapter markers, a DVD can have scene selections that let viewers jump to their favorite scenes quickly, as they can with professional DVDs. Chapter markers are embedded in the imported QuickTime movie and can come from iMovie 3, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, or even QuickTime Pro. Once these QuickTime clips are dropped into iDVD 3, the program creates two buttons: Play Movie, which plays the entire clip, and Scene Selection, which leads to a separate menu page that lists the individual scenes.

iDVD 3 limits you to 36 chapter markers per video clip, divided into 6 chapter markers per menu page. Another limitation is that iDVD displays the Play Movie and Scene Selection buttons for only one video clip with chapter markers at a time (the first movie loaded into iDVD). If you drag a second clip with chapter markers to the menu page, only the clip's name will be displayed. The Play Movie and Selected Scenes buttons for the second clip are displayed on the following menu page.

Slide Shows

When you add photos to a slide show, iDVD 3 converts them to video resolution. With the new Add Original Photos On DVD-ROM option, you can now include the full-resolution photos as well. While you can't view these high-resolution pictures with a set-top DVD player, they are accessible by computer -- so people you send them to can print out their own copies.

Macworld's Buying Advice

iDVD 3 is a software marvel that lets you create stylish, professional-looking DVDs easily and quickly, and it's well worth its $49 price. -- anton linecker

iDVD 3 Tips and Tricks

Improve your iDVD experience with these hints on preparing your content.

Importing Chapter Markers from Final Cut Since version 3.0.2, Final Cut Pro has had the ability to export chapter markers to DVD Studio Pro. Now it (and Final Cut Express) can also export chapter information to iDVD 3 -- but the process is significantly different.

To create chapter markers in Final Cut, position your playhead in the timeline. Typing m twice will place a marker in the timeline and bring up the Edit Marker window. Name the marker (this will become the button name in iDVD), and click on Add Chapter Marker. For iDVD 3, adding a compression marker isn't necessary.

For DVD Studio Pro, you would convert your movie to MPEG-2 in Final Cut, but since iDVD 3 doesn't import MPEG-2 files, you need to export a Final Cut Reference Movie. Make sure that Chapter Markers is selected in the Markers options -- the movie doesn't need to be self-contained.

Adding DVD-ROM Material It's possible to make your own enhanced DVDs with iDVD -- adding material accessible only via computer. The last button in the iMedia Browser brings up the Status window -- click on the Encoding Status button, and a DVD-ROM Contents option will appear. You can now drag almost any file into this window and even create folders to organize content.

Organize Your Content First Of course you want to edit your main video footage before putting it on DVD, but you may be less prepared with supporting elements such as photos, background movies, and music. While you can access iPhoto, iMovie, and iTunes files from iDVD, you cannot edit these elements within iDVD.

For example, if you want to have a particular sequence of photos play in one of iDVD's new menu drop zones, you need to build a photo album -- putting photos in the order you want them displayed in -- within iPhoto and then drop the album into iDVD. The same holds true if you want a short video sequence to play with a menu drop zone. You should edit the video element in iMovie first, so it will be available to you in iDVD.

If you want background music in iDVD but you want only a section of a song, you'll need to edit it in an application that supports sound editing, such as iMovie. iTunes doesn't let you edit sound. -- anton linecker

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